A chef at a Sunderland school is reaping the benefits of on-the-job experience by running his own kitchen just three years after joining the school catering team.

Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust (BCCET) employed Josh Kane as an apprentice in the kitchens of St Wilfrid’s RC College, based in South Shields. Josh had no previous experience and limited catering skills but, fast forward 36 months and a pandemic, he is now successfully running the kitchen at St Leonard’s Catholic Primary School in Silksworth and was even named Newcomer of the Year at the EDUcatering Excellence Awards.

Josh won the highly acclaimed award for helping St Wilfrid’s to provide healthy school meals. He was praised for his innovation in creating a menu that was tasty and appealing to a wide age range of children that ticked the health and nutrition box too.

Brendan Tapping, Chief Executive Officer at BCCET, said: “We’re constantly highlighting to our children just how important work ready skills are in developing an appropriate career route and we take the same approach when it comes to our employees too.

“Josh joined after finishing school learning at first how a school kitchen operated, gaining basic catering skills and cooking expertise. We have continued to support Josh’s development and watched him flourish into a talented and creative chef who is now making nutritious meals for pupils on a daily basis.

“Healthy school meals are a priority for the Trust which is why the work that our kitchen staff and chefs like Josh do is so important.

“Supporting Josh in gaining these skills and providing the right pathway for his development has been vital to his progression.

“Ever since he arrived at St Leonard’s the children have loved the meals he has created. One pupil even said ‘it’s like being in a Gordon Ramsay restaurant but better’.

“Josh is a great role model to young people and is now in a position to train future apprentices who join the Trust.”

St Leonard’s Catholic Primary School educates around 200 pupils, of which the vast majority receive school meals. Working with his kitchen team, Josh has developed a creative and healthy menu that children can enjoy in their classroom bubble as well as when unable to attend school during periods of isolation or lockdown.

Josh Kane, 20, from South Shields said: “When I first joined Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust I had no previous kitchen experience. However, the support to develop has been fantastic and I have learnt so much in the last three years.

“Since the pandemic began, I’ve been extra busy creating meals that could be eaten within specific bubbles in classrooms rather than the dinner hall which provide the same level of nutrition and taste as the normal menu provides.

“I’ve also had to think more about portable nutrition too for when we’ve provided meals to be eaten outside of school. It’s been an interesting year but I’ve learnt so much and enjoyed the challenge.”